Beneath the Pine

Small hands push the red pine needles
this way and that, stubby fingertips
carve tracks into the cool dirt.
Our village complete, we race
Matchbox cars with bright chipped paint down
burnt umber roads, brrrm,
brrrm, stalled for a moment every block
or two by clumps of wayward needles
spilled across an intersection. We
tidy the way and keep moving.
The grid etched in earth, a new
world is mapped in an afternoon.

The immense pine spreads its thick branches
wide and low. In morning we crawl back
into its shade, kneel in the soft
needle bed, find our red, blue, silver
hot rods, Jeeps, sedans waiting. Gripping the
cool metal between thumb and fingers, we race
our Matchbox cars, the dirt lanes
as wide as our knuckles still
grimy from yesterday.

Summer days spent under the fir tree,
we add miles of road, connect invisible
homes, airports, hospitals, navigate high speed
chases, fiery crashes into wood scrap buildings,
soda cap obstacles, handmade mountains, dips, turns.
Each day, the course expands, an intricate
world beneath the pine.

Then fresh morning after dark
hours of pelting rain, wind pushing,
pulling pine boughs, back, forth, around
and around, we crouch under the now
still branches, look for our village turned city,
turned metropolis. Hot rods, Jeeps,
sedans, brightly chipped have overnight
traveled down new gullies in the earth,
needles clumped into neat retaining
walls by hands not small.

Our city transformed by wind, by water
into wilderness, we kneel on damp earth,
gather the mud-spattered cars, brush them
off with our T-shirts, and trace
winding roads with the heels of
our hands, carefully lay paths around
the night’s rivulets, remapping our
world beneath the pine.

Ann E. Wallace, PhD, is an Associate Professor of English at New Jersey City University. She has published on traumatic memory, loss, and illness, as well as on her teaching practices within the composition classroom. Her work has recently appeared in Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, WordGathering, Mothers Always Write, Coldnoon, and Autumn Sky Poetry Daily.

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